Wellington Council partially retreats on living wage

May 17th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A living wage stoush between Wellington City Council and Chamber of Commerce has concluded, with both sides claiming victory.

The chamber was trumpeting success on its part after announcing future external contractors for the council would not have to be paid a living wage. 

The council had agreed to consult with the chamber on any extensions and, if necessary, it would seek legal judgment to clarify any disagreements.

However, the council says it has not backed down, and its original decision still stands, with a living wage to be paid to the council’s core cleaning staff from July 1, along with security staff.

Basically the two contracts done to date stand, but any future contracts may not include the provision.

As I have said before, it is madness to base your wages policy on whatever calculation is done by an Anglican priest living in Lower Hutt. That is not good governance. And forcing your contractors to do the same is even worse.

And the hypocrisy remains high as at least two Councillors who voted to force ratepayers to fund a living wage for Council staff and contractors, do not themselves pay a living wage to all staff working for them.

Chamber suing Council

November 9th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington City Council’s decision to pay its security contractors a living wage is headed to the High Court, and ratepayers could end up paying some of the legal bills.

The Wellington Chamber of Commerce announced on Friday that it would seek a judicial review of the council’s living wage policy.

The council, which has been paying its own staff a living wage since 2013, voted 9-6 in October to require its security services contractors do the same. …

But councillors were also warned by chief executive Kevin Lavery that the move could be illegal, as the council would effectively be paying 19 per cent more than the going rate for security services without seeing any “tangible” benefit.

The council’s lawyers believed it would lose if taken to court over the issue, as the Local Government Act prohibits councils from paying more than necessary for services without any corresponding benefit.

Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford said it did not take any great delight in heading to court, but the council needed to be held to account.

“We are taking these proceedings because we believe this decision is not prudent stewardship or efficient and effective use of ratepayer resources, 47 per cent of which is contributed by Wellington businesses.”

Delighted to see the Chamber doing this. The Council were told by their CEO and lawyers that what they intended to do was probably unlawful and would fail a lawful challenge. But instead they went ahead with their social engineering.

Deputy Mayor Justin Lester hit back and said the chamber was often silent when council spends hundreds of thousands on events like fireworks and the Santa Parade, yet it stomped its feet over a few extra dollars for workers.

The council has not considered whether it would take part in the judicial review as an interested party, or what the cost might be to ratepayers if it decided too, Lester said.

But any costs incurred would be as a result of having to respond to the chamber’s actions, he said. “It’s unfortunate.”

It’s unfortunate you ignored your own legal advice. Don’t complain when people go to court to try and ensure the Council acts within the law.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said there was a clear benefit to be had from paying staff a living wage.

“Decent pay and good performance are connected.”

They’re not staff, they’re contractors. Now the staff of the contractor will be paid one wage level when doing jobs for Wellington City Council and another level for other Councils. It’s barmy.

Is the living wage illegal

October 28th, 2015 at 7:07 am by David Farrar

The Wellington Chamber of Commerce states:

Wellington Chamber of Commerce is calling on the Wellington City Council to drop its flawed Living Wage proposal after its own legal advice said the changes would not be within the law.

The council’s own advice says “the Council is at risk of being found to have acted outside of the purpose of local government as set out by sections 10 and 11 of Local Government Act” and that the changes would be unlawful because “the increased cost that arises as a consequence of the living wage should allow for a corresponding increase in the quality or effectiveness of the particular service being provided.”

Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive John Milford says the council must take heed of its own legal advice.

“The Chamber has said from the start that the council’s pursuit of the Living Wage is an ideologically driven decision. The council has a duty to ratepayers to deliver services in a way that is most cost-effective for households and businesses. This is their clear legal obligation under the Local Government Act.

If the Council doesn’t change its policy, then maybe the issue should be tested in court?

“The council’s own paper notes that for just the one security contract alone ‘requiring a living wage to be paid would create a significant cost to the Council. The increase is estimated to be more than $2.4 million across the life of the contract of seven years …and the cost to the Council is likely to be approximately a 19% increase on the total contract price.’

“Council needs to stop playing feel-good games with ratepayer funds and focus on the things that will actually deliver more jobs and opportunities for Wellington.

You have Councillors forcing ratepayers to pay a so called living wage, yet refusing to do so in their own business.

Plus it is daft to outsource your wages policy to an Anglican priest living in the Hutt. They’ve basically said they will pay their staff whatever he tells them they should pay! And even when he changes the methodology, they still go along!

“The decision to force third-party contractors to implement the so-called Living Wage or face losing the council’s business is most concerning. That not only puts Wellington jobs and businesses at risk, it goes well beyond the council’s authority.

“The Living Wage’s methodology has repeatedly been shown as flawed.

“Wage increases should be about performance and productivity. This is not what the Living Wage is based on. Real wage increases cannot be created by the stroke of a pen.


Will Rich head up Wellington business?

January 14th, 2012 at 10:06 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Names are already being floated for the top job at Wellington Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, but no-one will say whether a popular former politician is in the running.

Former National MP Katherine Rich is rumoured to be a contender, although this could not be confirmed by either Rich, who was unavailable, or chamber chairman John Johnston. “We’re in the early stages of a process,” said Johnston.

However, he stressed the chamber was seeking a candidate “who’s got a track record in a senior leadership role with outstanding commercial acumen and very strong relationship management skills.”

Well if Katherine does want the job, they’d be morons to not hire her.

Rich was a three-term National MP front-bencher who is now chief executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council.

Here’s the thing. Before Katherine took up the FGC role, I had never even heard of the FGC. Since her appointment they have been in the news many times. In fact you’ve even had some people complain that they’re become too influential – which is the ultimate compliment to Katherine.

Mind you I’ve still not entirely forgiven Katherine for retiring in 2008. She robbed us of a great Cabinet Minister!

Editorials 8 March 2010

March 8th, 2010 at 10:18 am by David Farrar

The Herald says the Law Commission is on the right track re surveillance:

In a world of fast-paced technological change, it is not surprising that the Law Commission has found significant gaps in the laws designed to protect privacy. At the moment, it may be an offence to record a private conversation, but it is not to secretly film someone or use a device to track them. So there can be few quibbles over the commission’s recommendations to plug these gaps with a new law covering installation and use of surveillance, interception and tracking devices. The danger was that, in traversing other issues relating to privacy, it would suggest measures that promoted this but at the expense of other crucial personal and public interests, notably freedom of information. Happily, the commission has, by and large, resisted that.

I also think the Law Commission report is well done.

The Dominion Post welcomes the merger of the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Employers and Manufacturers Association central division:

By merging their back office operations the two business organisations will reduce their costs (by up to 40 per cent for businesses that are members of both organisations) and give business a stronger voice in the region. That is to the benefit of the region as well as individual members.

If the fees drop, I may even join!

And The Press talks CRIs:

When Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) were set up in 1992 it was an acknowledgement of the important contribution that science can make to the economy.

But, 18 years later, the CRI Taskforce report makes it clear that significant reforms are required, in the funding, ownership and governance of the eight institutes. It is essential that the Government now acts on the taskforce’s recommendations, which have the potential to help boost economic growth and thereby lift New Zealand from the bottom of the OECD in terms of research.

The report says that the CRIs should be working for the nation’s benefit, not their own. This might sound like a statement of the obvious but it is not always occurring now, as there is too much emphasis on research which produces results that CRIs can capture in their balance sheets.

A lack of a strategic direction is linked by the taskforce to the multiple lines of accountability for CRIs. They must be accountable to their shareholding ministers through the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, the Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit in Treasury and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, each of which has its own perspective and requirements.

The taskforce sensibly recommends that there should be just one agency to handle the Government’s investments in CRIs, as well as ownership and policy responsibilities.

The apparent merger of MORST and FORST on Wednesday may help with that.

The weird stance of Charles Chauvel

December 18th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

As the Copenhagen summit looks like ending with no agreement, around the only substantial achievement (to date) was the launch of the Global Research Alliance on agriculture greenhouse gases.

This is hugely important both for NZ and internationally.

The importance for NZ is it could help find a way to reduce methane emissions from livestock, which would save the country billions in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

The importance for the world is to avoid what happened with biofuels – that food producing land is converted into other uses, leading to global food shortages.

So it is one of those rare initiatives that almost everyone from business lobby groups to the most hardened Greenie supports. And kudos to Tim Groser and others for getting 20 countries to all pledge funding to it – from Australia to Vietnam to the US. Much better than NZ funding all the research,

Back in NZ, it won support from the Wgtn Chamber of Commerce (no fan of an ETS):

“The reality is that rather than the current proliferation of poorly designed cap and trade systems, science and technology are the real keys to solving the greenhouse gas emissions challenge, and this initiative plays to New Zealand’s research strengths,” said Chamber CEO Charles Finny. …

“This is a good example of trans-national cooperation with a number of countries pooling their expertise to solve a global problem. New Zealand going it alone would be less likely to produce results and it runs against the grain of what this global issue is all about.

“It is increasingly likely that this will be one of the few concrete initiatives to come from Copenhagen and so John Key and Tim Groser deserve full congratulations for the leadership they have shown in delivering this outcome,” Mr Finny concluded.

So business likes it. And what about the Greens. Well this is Kennedy Graham:

Minister Tim Groser advised that, on Day 1, some US$150 m. had been pledged, and it was hoped that this would leverage private funding as well.  But he stressed that it was not just a question of finance – the essence was coordination, of research already underway and new research yet to be funded.  France, for example, already has some 500 researchers in agriculture and climate change who would form part of the Alliance.  India’s contribution would be immense as well.  Once the political momentum was underway, it was important to turn it over to the scientists.

Denmark gave the most impressive example of the potential of the Alliance. Since 1990 it had increased agricultural production by 16% yet agricultural emissions had dropped by 23%.   This had been achieved through optimisation of the nutrient chain and improving water management. …

We should take a positive view of this initiative.

And Jeanette Fitzsimons said:

The Green Party today welcomed the announcement that New Zealand will lead a Global Research Alliance for reducing climate change emissions from agriculture, adding that it is crucial to pursue science and ideas that enhance our clean green reputation.

“I am delighted that New Zealand is finally doing something serious about fighting climate change and reducing agricultural emissions,” said Green Party Climate Change and Agriculture spokesperson Jeanette Fitzsimons. …

So New Zealand has achieved around the only positive announcement from Copenhagen, with an initiative that pleases both ETS sceptical businesses and the Greens. So who does that leave?

Labour’s Charles Chauvel. In a bizarre press release (one which Clark would have called treasonous if she was still PM) he has attacked the Global Alliance claiming NZ should have gone it alone:

“The multinational nature of the Global Agriculture Fund will inevitably mean that New Zealand won’t own the results of any research paid for by it.

“So, as well as there being substantially less money for investment in the reduction of emissions from agriculture, New Zealand will be poorer because we lose the opportunity to sell or share emissions reduction technology in our singular area of expertise on our own terms.

“Despite the self-generated fanfare and bright lights, National’s approach represents a failure. It totally lacks ambition and is a huge missed opportunity for New Zealand,” Charles Chauvel said.

Yes Chauvel thinks NZ could have solved the problem all by itself. He also misrepresents intellectual property laws (being pat of a multilateral alliance does not mean individual institutions abandon intellectual property rights over their inventions). It is a shockingly stupid stance.

In Opposition, there are times when mindless opposition just for the sake of a press release is a bad idea. As the Greens show, there are times you can say this is a good initiative – even if we don;t like the other things you are doing.

I wonder what Phil Goff, a respected former foreign and trade minister, thinks of his MPs claim NZ should not have helped set up the global research alliance, and gone it alone? I can’t imagine he possibly agrees.

Overseas Visitor Charges

January 3rd, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

WCC is looking at whether to impose an entry charge for overseas visitors to facilities such as the Cable Car Museum, City Gallery, Capital E! and the Plimmer’s Ark conservation project on Queens Wharf.

I’m certainly in favour of user pays for overseas visitors, so long as the costs of collection were not too high. I also support Charles Finny:

Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive Charles Finny said he favoured an amalgamation of local bodies in the Wellington region “rather have that than some sort of discriminatory pricing”.

“We think that having nine councils for a population of 450,000 people is absurd.”

If an amalgamation happened, funding problems would “just go away”.

Indeed Wellington does not need four city councils and five district councils.

Michael Bassett breakfast

June 10th, 2008 at 1:04 pm by David Farrar

A very enjoyable breakfast put on by the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, and as with everyone there now the proud owner of a copy of Michael Bassett’s book on the 4th Labour Government. I doubt I will have time to read it until the weekend, or maybe keep it for air travel the following week. So fuller review to follow.

Some of Lange’s former doctors co-operated with the book, and from what Dr Bassett said very few people knew how ill Lange was during his leadership. There were almost parallels with Norman Kirk. It was quite sad thinking of Lange struggling with ill health and the pressures of a fractured Government.

Bassett says Lange’s greatest moments were three of his speeches. One to a Labour Party conference (where he was going over the heads of the hierarchy direct to the delegates), the one wrapping up the economic summit and the Oxford Union debate. He made the point Lange’s skills were in “fronting” the Government rather than leading it.

Some good reminders of his legendary wit, such as when he told an Ambassador he had named his race horse Lackareason after the country’s foreign poliicy 🙂

The internal politics of Labour were very interesting, as described. The Douglas faction had a clear majority in Caucus, but didn’t want to roll Lange, as they kept hoping (in vain) that he would “come right”. Eventually they effectively pushed him out when they re-elected Roger Douglas to Cabinet over Lange’s wishes.

Also of interest is how the Palmer Government did not want to lose Roger Douglas (who was retiring in 1990) and dispatched someone to convince Sir Roger to stay on. One Helen Elizabeth Clark it seems. It was focused on the 4th not 5th Labour Government, but there was passing reference to how Clark and Cullen voted to privatise Telecom and never raised a voice in opposition in Cabinet.

Bassett has interviewed many of his former colleagues for the book, including even Helen Clark for the anti-nuclear section. There is no doubt he is no longer a supporter of Labour under Clark, but I think people would be silly to dismiss the book on that basis – he has been a writer of history for many decades, and the rarity of having an insider write a book on how Government actually works should make it required reading for pol sci students.

I was fortunate enough to have a dinner a few years back with Michael, and his knowledge of NZ political history is extensive – the dinner and discussion went on for six hours, with conversations ranging from Seddon and Massey to Jim Anderton!

Working with David: Inside the Lange Cabinet

June 4th, 2008 at 11:33 am by David Farrar

Michael Bassett has finished his long awaited book “Working with David: Inside the Lange Cabinet”. I’ve been anticipating this for around 20 years since I read that Bassett took detailed notes during both caucus and cabinet meetings (technically a no no but people knew he would not publish them until appropriate time had passed).

The Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce has a Momentum Breakfast with Dr Bassett next Tuesday.

It is at 7.15 am on Level 28 of the Majestic Centre. Tickets are $40 for members and $60 for non members (thanks to WRCC for a complementary one for myself).

From former Cabinet Minister Michael Bassett, Working with David is an in-depth insight into the Lange government of 1984-1990. This was a key time in New Zealand history for both international politics (ANZUS, Mururoa tests, Oxford Union debate) and domestic economics (Roger Douglas’s reforms) of which the real story has never been told until now. Written by Lange’s cousin, and senior Cabinet Minister in that Government, Michael Bassett, here is the “inside the Cabinet room” view of some of the most heady and turbulent times in recent history.

One can book online at the link provided. The 4th Labour Government did so many amazingly inspired things, but also stuffed some things up in a big way. I can’t wait to get a copy of the book and hear Dr Bassett on the day.

Political Travellers

March 11th, 2008 at 8:35 pm by David Farrar

By coincidence, Jordan Carter was seated next to me on the flight up to Auckland on Saturday morning. I was heading on holiday, while Jordan was off to his selection meeting for Hunua for Labour, where he was selected unopposed. Congratulations Jordan.

I offered to help Jordan write his acceptance speech, but he declined!

On the way back on Monday night, Russel Norman and Jeanette Fitzsimons were on the flight (which was delayed 50 minutes).  Russel chatted to me for a bit and I told him that I had actually praised the Greens online communications, and his blogging specifically, at the Chamber of Commerce meeting on Friday. I’m not sure if he believed me 🙂 but Adam Smith has blogged that I did speak well of those, who are less charitable towards me.

Welington Chamber Lunch on Politics and Blogging

February 25th, 2008 at 12:39 pm by David Farrar

I’m the guest speaker at a lunch organised by the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce on Friday 7 March 2008.

My topic is “The Impact of Blogging on the New Zealand Political Strategy and 2008 Election”

I haven’t finalised what I am going to say, but expect to cover the following areas:

  1. The role of political blogs in US and UK
  2. Review how well each political party is generally using online media and communications, and how they are interacting with blogs (people may be surprised by what I will say here)
  3. The relationship between traditional media and bloggers in NZ
  4. The impact of blogging in the 2005 election, and how things have changed since then.
  5. Some predictions for 2008

If you wish to attend, you can book and pay online at the Chamber website. It’s on the 28th floor of the Majestic Centre so one gets to enjoy a stunning view.